Oxford Brookes nursing graduate wins award after saving a man’s life

Friday, 09 October 2020

Isobel Corrie

An Oxford Brookes University nursing graduate has been named the winner of the Patient’s Choice category at the Royal College of Nursing (RCNi) Awards 2020 at a virtual event last night (8th October).

Isobel Corrie was nominated for the award by James Birch, the man she saved while on a flight home from Thailand in 2019.

Isobel had only recently completed her BSc Adult Nursing course at Oxford Brookes and was returning home to attend her graduation ceremony after a two-week holiday. Sleeping on the plane, she heard a call over the tannoy asking for someone with medical experience.

Isobel recalls what happened: “I had been chatting to the guy next to me and told him I was a student nurse. Then I went to sleep. Next thing I knew he was waking me up and telling me there’d been a call out on the tannoy for medical assistance.

“So once I’d woken up, I went over and could see right away that a man was having a cardiac arrest. He wasn’t breathing and I had to start CPR really quickly.

“I’d never done CPR on a real person before but we had been taught skill sessions called Basic Life Support every year at Brookes – practising on a dummy in the skills labs. So I had to think back to those sessions and what to do in this scenario.

I’d never done CPR on a real person before but we had been taught skill sessions called Basic Life Support every year at Brookes – practising on a dummy in the skills labs. So I had to think back to those sessions and what to do in this scenario.

Isobel Corrie, Oxford Brookes BSc Adult Nursing graduate

“I ended up having to do compressions for 45 minutes to keep James alive. His partner, Julie, was there as well which was really difficult – normally you would help loved ones get away from the situation but there was no space and it was really traumatic for her to watch.”

The plane made an emergency stop in Mumbai and James was taken to hospital.

Isobel, meanwhile, was left in limbo, wondering if he had survived and, as a result, was unable to properly process or recover from what had taken place.

“I didn’t know what had happened for quite a long time. It was really hard because I didn’t know if I had done enough to save him.

“I tweeted the airline to try and find out but no-one got back to me. So I phoned them but they couldn’t give me any information.

“I just wanted to know what had happened. So I tweeted out the number and the date of the flight to see if anyone had any information. About three weeks later, James tweeted back!

“It was so emotional.”

Isobel has stayed in contact with both James and Julie, becoming friends with them on Facebook and keeping in touch via phone.

Now, more than year on, Isobel says it feels indescribable to have won the award:

“I feel so lucky that so many people have considered me for their vote. It's truly awesome to be a part of such an amazing group of people in the Patient's Choice category.

“I also am so grateful to James and Julie for taking the time to nominate me.

“James, Julie and I have been in contact through the whole process. It's been so exciting for all of us. They were so happy when they found out the result.”

During the virtual event, James Birch said: “That night she didn’t just change my life, she changed the life of my children, my partner and all my friends and family and we’d all like to say thank you Isobel.”

Isobel now works at Warwick Hospital and said her colleagues are supportive of her win.

“I have an incredibly supportive team at work. They have been so excited and were delighted to hear the result. I am lucky to have them to share my win.”

You can read more about the RCNi awards and the finalists via the RCNi Awards website.

More information about studying Nursing at Oxford Brookes University can be found on the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery webpages